Five million Afghan children still not in school warns British head of charity

 

The British head of a charity working on the front line in Afghanistan has warned that despite progress 5 million children are still not in school, amid fears that the withdrawal of troops will leave them stranded.

Dr Sarah Fane, whose charity Afghan Connection has helped 40,000 children into schools, has voiced concerns over Afghanistan’s future, saying that charities fear international interest will wane when troops are withdrawn in 2014.

Dr Fane, who has worked on global campaigns to raise awareness with Hollywood stars including Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, has dedicated the last decade to providing an education to children in Afghanistan. She believes progress in the war-torn country would have been much slower without the international presence.

Describing Afghanistan under the Taliban as “a place of despair”, she founded Afghan Connection in 2002 and has since built 36 schools with support from private donors and the international community.

The charity currently focuses on schools in the safer north-eastern district of Worsaj, where local communities are keen to provide their children with an education, but are in urgent need of resources.

The country has already seen vast improvements in its educational services. Before the fall of the Taliban in 2001 only 5000 of the one million children in school were girls, but since intervention that figure has risen to 8 million, including 3 million girls.

But with 5 million - around 42% of children - still out of school, the charity head warns that with international forces preparing to pull out, Afghanistan’s most promising legacy hangs in the balance.

Recalling the country left ravaged by civil war following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, Dr Fane says a “familiar scenario”, where people are left with weapons and a power vacuum - rather than a solid infrastructure - is a substantive fear for many Afghans.

Last month the Taliban’s former finance minister, Mullah Agha Jan Mutasim, told the Express Tribune that civil war was inevitable if Afghans didn’t “learn a lesson from the bitter experiences of the past and reach an understanding.”

Yet, without recent precedent for peaceful post-war negotiations, mobilising future generations with education rather than weapons could be the difference between civil war and stability.

Central to progress is the country’s ministry of education, which is keen to address the dearth of female teachers who play a crucial role in girls’ education and training centres have already increased tenfold.

But with increasing numbers of girls and women in schools, safety is a concern. In April, a suspected water poisoning saw over 100 girls and teachers hospitalised in the Takhar province and in July gunmen set fire to a school in Herat.

Despite the risks, Dr Fane insists she’s providing a safe environment for her students, with local communities offering land and labour to help preserve schools. In 2010, they helped reopen 220 schools in nine months that had been closed or damaged because of insurgency.

By only delivering what communities are asking for, charities are able to build schools in relative safety because, she believes, their security  is in their relationships.

A culturally sensitive approach, where fathers and husbands begin to see the economic benefits of having educated daughters and wives, enables charities like Afghan Connection to spread their work to other areas, and Dr Fane hopes that with Worsaj as the prototype she’ll be able to build schools in neighbouring towns and villages.

“Thousands come out to thank me, then someone will come from the across the valley, see our school, and say ‘help us, we want the same.’ If the funds are there, there’s no reason why we can’t carry on.” But with only a year to go before British forces start pulling troops out, she says pressure is mounting on NGOs to capitalise on international interest and raise funds “before the world forgets about Afghanistan”.

“The demand for education is here, but it really is a question of money - and that comes from continued awareness. There are no quick fixes, but I’m optimistic. When you think that £35 will pay for a child to go to school for a year, there’s no reason why long-term we can’t get that final five million into education.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot